Extreme carpenter, salvage supremo and anarchic gardener Peter Chippendale was featured in DesignInspiration in Feb 2010; at the time I was coveting some garden furniture from his Chippendale Revival Collection and in particular a twelve seater table.
Peter finds things on bonfires, road sides and rubbish skips then fashions them into pieces that would grace the most glamorous of gardens.....and mine. His own garden is stunning, visitors suggest that he hires it as a place for location shoots and bijou events. I must ask whether he does.
My first visit was around 1982, we had a picnic with Peter and his family, it was summer and the garden was in its very early stages, it was magical. A tiny white pony called Stubbs and a couple of guineas pigs lived in part of it, looked after by the very young Chippendale children. With each visit I would be impatient to see the garden to witness the progress and hear the latest plans. Peter's wife Anni is an artist, teacher and accomplished maker of all sorts of things. The interior of their 16th century cottage was her creation. On that occasion I remember it as a tiny jewel of a place, richly coloured, unusual and beautiful. A decade later it was featured in Period Living magazine, one of our Tree Of Life stencils decorated the walls. At one period Peter was making frequent business trips to Japan and that inspired a new decorative direction for the cottage and its surroundings.
The garden has evolved into an unusual art project, the magical quality has developed along with it.
There are some fabulous touches, he has sculpted ornament from all kinds of unlikely materials. In a recent email he wrote 'When the creative wind and materials are right I make things from acquired unwanted treasures'. He sees the potential treasure in discarded polystyrene chunks, rusting spikes and broken window frames, all are loaded into 'The Bananamobile' his ancient yellow Skoda pick up. The treasures may languish for years until the creative wind blows in their direction, the more mundane aspects of keeping a garden 'keep getting in the way' he adds.
I should add 'Shrub and Grass Pruner Extraordinaire ' to his list of accolades.
Peter told me "I have loads of plants that I control into architectural shapes - not just bushes, shrubs, trees but also grasses and especially sedges. These number into the hundreds but a sort of salvation came this last birthday with the purchase of Bosch's new li-ion shrub pruner. Don't know how much shaping you do but it's great - once you de-activate the dead-mans-handle feature."
I was whining about the masses of stinging nettle growing over the formal areas of my garden. I let them run a little wild to help butterflies but now they are mocking me along with rampant lemon balm, ground elder and mint; maybe I should review my problem planting as a topiary challenge I shall investigate the shrub pruner idea but may not take up his tip of de-activating and dead men; sounds a bit dubious on the health and safety aspect.
Peter and I share an enjoyment of mixing chaos and order in our gardens, I am planting another border of 'buns' shaped from buxus and santolina, he will coax weeds into shapes. Neither of us have low maintenance gardens, we both have seriously old pear trees and we have both broken our ribs during garden labour; the latter similarity was news to me, I learned it from reading World Of Interiors... the May 2015 issue. Writer Martin Hemmings wrote such a warm, funny feature about him and Bob Smith took the photographs. I knew the story well because Peter Chippendale is my brother in law but Hemmings tells it much better than I.
The World of Interiors interview tells of Peter's workshop made from found fence panels and greenhouse plastic.
Hemmings described as a 'nostalgic-smelling organised chaos of works in progress'. I can believe that. Peter described it to me as 'suitably odd' It cost him the princely sum of £14.00 to build it and that was for the hinges. Recently, he told me "I built another, twice as big, for £1.80 - the ludicrous expense due solely to herself hearing that I was searching for a washing line and actually buying one in IKEA!!!" Herself of course is Anni. The two young children that I met in the garden at the summer picnic have both taken an artistic path and I wrote about Bec Chippendale in a post in 2011, on our last exchange she was designing stage sets for Matilda and Groundhog day.
So, if you are making plans for home and garden this year it may be worth visiting Chippendale Revival and see whether Pete has created someting to enhance your home or garden. He accepts commissions and will consider transforming your own unwanted pieces ... if the creative wind and materials inspire him.
I am still coveting that table.